And what a match to open the RWC 2023 – hosts France vs New Zealand. That promises some exciting rugby.  Having won the RWC in 2011 and 2015, it was a deep shock to the All Blacks to only come third in last RWC in 2019. They will have taken this to heart and that can only mean some explosive rugby to delight us all.

One Rugby pundit after the 2023 summer series, commented – “For once, the All Blacks are coming into the World Cup more as the hunters not the hunted”. An interesting take on a team, whose victories have repeatedly scattered the rugby pitches of the world. But their warmup match against South Africa in August at Twickenham, where they lost 37-7 to the Springboks, struck shock into Kiwi fans and a smidgen of hope into those of Italy, Uruguay & Namibia, who find themselves in Pool A with the All Blacks. The NZ discipline in that match, with repeat infringements, sin bins, yellow and even a red card was in part to blame – yes, the men in Gold & Green played their boots off but they also lost 39% of their tackles and yet still dominated the match. That recent result will have made the All Blacks want even more to win this first match against France and put their stamp back on the tournament.

And this is the All Blacks – the most awe inspiring, revered and respected of teams, never to be underestimated.  They will be all too aware of the emotional advantage of a home match for France in their starting pool game – but they have the advantage of (usually!) playing with more unending focus and seizing every gap & opportunity afforded them by their opponents – combining reliability with attacking flair as well as defence – as Mary Poppins would say “Practically perfect in every way”.  

Captain: Sam Cane

Player to Watch: Richie Mo’Unga (not only for his outstanding excellence on the pitch as fly half but gets my vote for his accurate statements about the double standards after the reversal of Farrell’s ban!)

For more details of Team New Zealand:

For full details follow

What to Eat & Drink whilst watching the All Blacks

Food: As befits an Island nation, New Zealand is blessed with a wide range of produce from sparkling fresh seafood to delicious lamb.  The Maori influence is seen by the continued popularity of a Hangi, which is similar to the Lovo of Fiji, – cooking in an underground oven using heated rocks to steam & bake.  British influence in NZ’s cuisine has now been also blended with the effect of Pacific Rim cooking.  One of the best dishes that I ate in New Zealand was the superb green lipped mussels – but that might be a little fiddly for match day food.

The interest in Maori cuisine, throughout the wider NZ population is having a bit of a renaissance with Chefs respecting the traditions, recipes and engaging with their native plants and seeds. Try making Paraoa rewena, sourdough bread but where the starter is based on potato. Or maybe a bowl of Inaga – deep fried whitebait. Perfect finger food for cheering on the All Blacks!

Or given that are 4.9 sheep to every human in New Zealand – why not get creative with lamb. Buy some small lamb chops (or get your butcher to split a rack into individual chops and French trimmed – then once roasted (with lots of garlic and mint) – the perfect finger food to nibble!

But there is perhaps one more food even more perfect for match day – still enjoyed throughout New Zealand – Fish & Chips!  You could show the more Asian influences of NZ by making it with Tempura batter – but why mess around with a classic! Follow this link and find an outstanding independent Chippy near you –


Beer: Very much in tune with the “have a go” and inventive attitude of most Kiwi’s, craft beer production has hugely increased in New Zealand! There is now a vast range of very individual styles being produced. Look out for   stocked  in the UK by (as well as lots of great NZ beers)

More mainstream beer brands widely available include Speights and Steinlager, the latter having been sponsors of the All Blacks since 1986 and have created adverts for this RWC #unconditionalsupporters

Wine: Easily in my top ten favourite wine producing countries of the world, New Zealand produces some tantalising wines.  It burst onto the world market with Sauvignon Blanc and that is still by far the most planted variety – but it has so much more interesting other wines to offer as well – including some spectacular Riesling and interesting left field varieties such as Gruner Veltliner.  Considering that NZ only produces less than 2% of the World’s wine, it has a strong export market, especially on the UK stage. Its admirable attitude to screwcaps as a closure and sustainability in the vineyards along with its diverse climatic conditions mean that NZ wine has an even greater future.

Chardonay made by brilliant wine maker Michael Brajkovich MW at Kumeu River, is always delicious – so depend on your budget for your All Blacks party.  Kumeu Village Chardy – accessible, crisp apples & slightly honied – delicious especially at this price £12.50 from

Or up a level to the Kumeu Estate Chardonnay – more depth and character, think apple crumb with some hazelnuts. £25 from

Or from the same wine merchant. L&S,  one of their top flights Chardonnays, indeed possibly one of the best wines in NZ – Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyard. Incredible purity, fresh grapefruit with garrigue herbs, leading into flinty minerality – just heaven in a glass. Worth its £49 price tag.

There are many perfectly OK but rather one-dimensional Sauvignon Blancs from NZ that flood the UK market, but also some outstanding ones to seek out. Such as from the estate of Greywacke – whose Sauvignon Blanc is bursting with character yet elegant – lots of limes zest, pears, custard apples, but it’s the texture and depth that makes this SB stand out from the crowd. £21 –

A gorgeous Syrah from New Zealand Oldest winery – Te Mata Estate Syrah. Bursting with flavour, hints of white pepper, deep dark fruits, and overlaying chocolate. Available from and great value for this class of wine at just £15.99 on their six-mix deal.

One of the most exciting regions of NZ is Central Otago on the South Island, especially if you like silky, seductive Pinot Noir.   If you like your Pinots to have lots of ripe cherry notes backed up with some spice, look out for Akitu Pinot Noir. Heavenly with lamb or melanzane parmigiana. or

Staying close by in Central Otago, look out for Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir, lovely notes of dark cherries, with some warmth of nutmeg on the finish, this is classic PN from the region of Bannockburn. £28 from


Links to just a few of my favourite NZ Wine Producers to seek out and enjoy:

And for when you may have celebrated a little too much – don’t forget that NZ has a thriving Coffee Culture – with all the terminology that goes with it – who else would have invented the “Flat White” (well the Aussies argue they did but we’re amongst friends….) – and did you know that New Zealand has more roasters per person than anywhere else in the world. Just don’t tell a Kiwi Barista that a coffee with milk (UK style) is the same as a “flat white”!

For more information about Wines of New Zealand: